Accessibility is often overlooked at most tourist destinations, causing a huge amount of inconvenience to differently-abled people. However, one museum is setting an example when it comes to accessibility. London’s Wellcome Collection, a free museum, is being hailed “the most accessible museum space ever opened in Britain,” with its ‘Being Human’ exhibition according to many differently-abled activists. The exhibition is permanent.
The museum’s main aim is to encourage people to think about the intersections of science, medicine, life, and art. In terms of creating a space that is convenient and accommodating for people with disabilities, the museum has put in a lot of effort. Wellcome Collection has worked with multi-disciplinary architecture and design studio Assemble, as well as two advisory panels, one science-based and the other comprising artists, activists, and consultants focused on the representation of disability and difference.
How is the space accessible?
Many design elements like video screens and other displays are hung at the optimal height and depth for wheelchair users. Benches that are normally placed front and centre are offset so they can pull up to get the best view. Individuals with visual and hearing impairments were also taken into consideration along with people who have anxiety, autism, and other mental health conditions.
Displays at the exhibition
Fascinating displays at the exhibition include a 3D portrait printed from the DNA that artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg extracted from discarded hair, gum, and cigarette butts she found in New York City. There is also a replica of Zimbabwe’s Friendship Bench project that paired grandmothers with those in mental health distress for structured conversations and perfume sculpture with notes of breast milk. Far from being run-of-the-mill, these exhibits are rare and intriguing.
Aside from the exhibition’s accessible design its curatorial approach is also unique. It focused on putting forth stories of individuals as compared to merely displaying something.